What Is Lunar Planting?
Lunar planting, or lunar gardening, does not involve nude gardening at night by the light of the moon!
It is all about timing your gardening activities to coincide with certain phases of the moon.
Here’s an example of how much difference some people claim lunar planting can make to your gardening success.
I’ve read various explanations of the theory behind lunar planting. Some of it sounds scientific (although I’m not aware of any conclusive investigations): the moon influences tidal patterns and hence also water in the ground and in plant cells; the increasing and decreasing nighttime light levels at different phases bring out or deter different types of pests and predators; pests and predators may breed and go through their lifecycles according to lunar light levels, making certain lunar phases more dangerous for certain types of seedlings to be sprouting; and seed germination or plant leaf growth might be directly influenced by the varying lunar light levels.
I’ve also read some mystical explanations, involving astrological star signs and “mother earth” spirituality and such.
Personally, I think the lunar planting calendar was probably a result of empirical observation – not hard-and-fast rules as such (e.g. “all your lettuces will die if planted at the wrong time!”), but general trends that were noticed by ancient gardeners and farmers (e.g. “lettuces tend to germinate and grow a little better and suffer less pest attack if planted at the right time”). There probably is some scientific basis for the traditions they evolved. The lunar cycle also would have provided rhythm and timing for routine chores when people didn’t have calendars and watches to go by.
My personal belief is that these types of traditions are passed down through the generations wrapped up in mythological stories to make them easier to remember and to embed them in the culture. The astrological star signs probably grew out of those myths and traditions, although their applicability to personality traits and predicting what kind of day you’ll have seems pretty flimsy to me.
But enough of the deep thinking, I’m going to give lunar planting a go just to see what happens!
The general guidelines are:
- New Moon: (i.e. new moon to first quarter moon) Balanced root and leaf growth. Plant above-ground annual leaf and seed crops, as well as flowering annuals and melons e.g. lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, melons, and grain crops. Begin new projects. Mow lawns now to increase growth.
- First Quarter: (i.e. first quarter moon to full moon) Strong leaf growth. Plant above-ground annual fruiting crops (e.g. beans, melons, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes), green manures and flowering annuals. Nurture and tend to new growth. Mow lawns now to increase growth.
- Full Moon: (i.e. full moon to last quarter moon) Strong root growth. Plant root crops (e.g. beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and peanuts). Also good for perennials, biennials, bulbs and transplanting because of the active root growth. Finish off projects and tasks. Harvest. Prune. Mow lawns now to retard growth.
- Last Quarter: (i.e. last quarter moon to new moon) Resting period. Begin compost heaps and worm farms. Remove noxious growth, weeds and pests. Cultivate, harvest, transplant and prune. Rest. Mow lawns now to retard growth.
A more detailed explanation is available at Aussie Organic Gardening’s Traditional Moon Planting guide. That blog also has a moon phase guide in the right sidebar if you’re not sure what phase we’re currently in. I’ll also be posting the moon phases into my Events sidebar (down the left hand side of this site) as a handy reminder.
I wrote an earlier post explaining when the phases of the moon occur.
It gets fancier, using the signs of the zodiac to divide the lunar month up into twelve 2.5-day periods with specific tasks for each period, but I’ll just stick to the simple guidelines above for now.
I’m not sure if I’ll see any benefit from lunar planting, although I’m willing to believe for the reasons I outlined above that there may be something to it. Regardless, I think this will be a handy way to organise my garden jobs and stagger my seed sowing to make sure there’s always something ready to eat.
Plus, I think it’s just plain interesting to learn about and follow an ancient tradition.
What do you think? Have you experimented with lunar gardening? Do you think there might be anything to it? Or do you think I’m a lunatic? 🙂